My Travel Blog

Am I Going To Jail In France?

No matter where you are, but especially in a foreign country, the last thing you want is a call from the police.  Lisa proceeded to hand me the cell phone with slightly raised eyebrow and a faint smile that said, ‘you really stepped in it this time.’  With great trepidation I answered in a barely audible voice, ‘Hello.’…

The man at the other end asked if I spoke French.  I told him I didn’t so he continued speaking in broken English.  He explained that he was the head of the Harbor Police and that we had to move Rabelo immediately.  He said the Port Captain had paid us a visit that morning, and was not happy.   We figured that it must have been the guy that didn’t speak English who we thought was either trying to hire Rabelo or wanted a job as a captain.  In either case with our limited French we blew him off as politely as we could.

It must have really pissed him off.

I explained to the policeman that I couldn’t move Rabelo because our captain was gone.  Unfortunately the guy had done his homework, and informed me that I was the one with the captain’s license.  Oh crap, now what.

My brain instantly stuck in freeze mode.  What was I going to do?  The last thing I wanted was to move Rabelo down the busy Seine with just Lisa on board.  I finally told him that yes it was my license, but that without the Captain’s help I could not move Rabelo by myself.  He said we could stay until Wilco returned that night, but we would have to move first thing in the morning.

“Some of the local artwork.”

“A street musician that moves his piano thru the city.”

I can’t believe how many times we’ve dealt with French law enforcement over the past five months.  Fortunately in every case they could not have been more polite.  My general impression of the French, but especially the police and Gendarmes, was that they prefer to avoid confrontation.  If there is a reasonable way to work out a problem they are more than happy to take that route.  It’s a delightful trait that more societies should aspire to, and one of the many reasons why we will be traveling the rivers and canals of France for many years to come.

“An old friend. Nine years ago Alamo tied up behind us.”

“An amphibious car on the back of a barge.”

“Strolling the streets of Paris.”

When Wilco returned I explained the problem, and he somehow managed to get us one more night in the center of Paris.  We ended up staying five nights for free.  That’s not bad when you consider we probably had the best room in the city.  We eventually found a place to moor just outside Paris, but only two blocks from a Metro Station.  It was a private mooring that a repair facility rarely used.  The manager said we could tie up for free, so we gave him three good bottles of Champagne.  We probably should have given him a case.  Hopefully when we return next year our new friend will still be there, and the space will be available.

“Basilica of the Sacre Coeur.”

“More French architecture.”

“Sometimes we forget where this old girl came from.”


-Tom Miller
Author of “The Wave” – 
a Chuck Palmer Adventure novel



About the Author:

Tom Miller graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Geology. He is a consummate adventurer with over 1,000 dives as a recreational scuba diver, and an avid sailor who has traveled 65,000 miles throughout the Pacific including the Hawaiian Islands. Miller has also cruised the canals of Europe on his canal barge and given numerous lectures on cruising the canals of Europe, as well as sailing in the South Pacific. Piloting is also an interest of Miller's, and He has completed over 1,000 hours flying everything from small Cessnas to Lear jets.